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‘Australia looks to be on the wrong side of history’

In a piece for SBS, writer Mark Riboldi has called for a resolution on an international independent investigation to be passed at the UN Human Rights Council in March and for Australia to rethink their policy towards Sri Lanka.

Reflecting on Australian engagement with Sri Lanka, Riboldi states that Australia has been “toeing the Rajapaksa line”, leaving Tamils to “suffer dearly”.

He goes on to state that an “independent international investigation is the best chance the Tamil people have to achieve peace with justice.”

Extracts have been reproduced below. See the full piece here.

"Next month the United Nations Human Rights Council will vote on a resolution on Sri Lanka. It relates to accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by both sides during the final stages of the island nation’s bitter civil conflict, and ongoing reports of systemic abuse of Tamils by the government since the end of the war in 2009."

"Driven perhaps by internal asylum seeker politics, successive Australian governments have continuously sided with the Rajapaksa regime. There is, however, growing international consensus regarding the need for an independent and international investigation of the claims."

"Australia is looking increasingly certain to be on the wrong side of history when it comes to Sri Lanka."

"The Sri Lankan government has consistently rejected calls for an independent investigation, pointing towards an (internationally discredited) internal investigation which cleared the government of systemic human rights abuses during the war.

Successive Australian governments have taken President Rajapaksa at his word, Tamils have suffered dearly in the cruel political game of Australian asylum seeker politics. By toeing the Rajapaksa line about Sri Lanka’s safety for Tamils since the end of the war, Australian governments have guaranteed that even UNHCR-recognised refugees have languished and suffered in Australian and Indonesian detention centres."

"The Australian mainstream media largely ignored ongoing issues within Sri Lanka until December 2012, when, following the lead of prominent former sporting boycotts against South Africa, a group of campaigners called for a boycott of the Sri Lankan cricket tour of Australia. The campaign was endorsed by numerous prominent Australians including author Thomas Keneally, Sydney Peace Foundation Chair Stuart Rees, human rights lawyer Julian Burnside and former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who called for “an independent assessment of the situation in Sri Lanka, including whether members of the Tamil minority are being persecuted and how those sent back from Australia after coming here by boat are being treated.”"

"However, given the lack of cooperation and accountability displayed by the Sri Lankan government to date, its attempts during the war to escape international observation, and shocking reports of deteriorating conditions and torture since the war’s end, Rajapaksa’s attempt to hastily establish a TRC should be treated with great suspicion. The regime appears to have gone too far down the road towards dictatorship and thus a UNHRC vote in March 2014 for an independent international investigation is the best chance the Tamil people have to achieve peace with justice."